Original Heating Plant

Longwood University’s original heating plant was constructed and commissioned in 1938 and consisted of three water tube boilers fueled by coal. In 1963, another coal-fired boiler was added to supplement the existing system. 

Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, the government implemented increasingly more stringent air pollution regulations. Resultant of these regulations, oil’s relatively low cost at the time, and the air pollution control equipment needed to retrofit the oil fired-boilers being less costly than that required for coal, the heating plant was converted to burn oil. Two of the original coal-fired boilers remained in place to serve only as an emergency backup. 

During the 1970s when oil prices rose to a dollar per gallon, the university conducted a feasibility study for converting the plant back to coal. The feasibility study concluded that $1.7 million was needed to convert the boilers; the majority of that cost would be required for the installation of the proper pollution control equipment necessary to comply with air pollution regulations. This measure was not financially viable for the university. Instead, in 1981 Longwood received permission from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to experiment with burning biomass, specifically the sawdust byproduct from local sawmills. 

In 1983, the two remaining 1938 coal-fired boilers were converted to burn sawdust and used to conduct pilot tests. These pilot tests concluded that burning sawdust instead of coal or oil resulted in a significant cost savings and a reduction in harmful emissions. In 2004, the two 1938 converted coal boilers were replaced with one hybrid wood-fired boiler.